But very soon I realized what he was doing: he was promoting the interests of elites in India, if not explicitly upholding the upper caste values. Gandhi appeared then to be far more complex person than what I initially thought him to be. I suddenly correlated him with the biggest person in his family Nehru- after all Nehru created many institutions which upheld caste aspirations of Hindus and the latter were obviously not fool to call him as Pandit Nehru.
Please do not misinterpret me as having any caste bias for and against anyone though I do believe that overall caste system has been beneficial to India and also that Brahmins as a group are the most nationalist people in India. After that famous speech my admiration of Rahul Gandhi increased a bit but not much. I heard him once or twice during 2009 general elections campaign of the Congress. I heard him one or two times more speaking in the Lower House of the Parliament.
Then I heard him recently on television addressing media persons on corruption and inflation. He appeared rather idealist; someone he is not at the core of his heart, I believe. But he still emphasized too much idealism, precision and perfectness; those that do not exist at macro-levels in India.
The senior leader of the BJP and the leader of the opposition in the Upper House of the Parliament, Arun Jaitley, described Gandhi’s position on India facing various problems as the example of “contrived anger and manufactured dissent”. No matter how much I try to remain neutral with respect to the BJP and the Congress, the fact is I cannot disagree with Jaitley.
What Gandhi appears to be conveying in that media address was his personal disapproval of corruption and equal disliking of rampant inflation in India. Fine, I can agree without much hesitation that Gandhi will not turn out to be a corrupt person in his personal capacity but what about his party and its alliance partners?
Also, it is the fact that during Vajpayee’s six years tenure the inflation was not that high and there was hardly any big case of corruption that can be attributed to the then BJP-led NDA government. To be fair to all I agree that it was a different time altogether.
But off late I have started liking Gandhi. He is a formidable candidate for any opposition and would make Modi somewhat anxious about his supposedly claimed ‘definite’ victory in 2014 general elections due in the summer. Gandhi has charisma and is the most popular leader of the Congress. The fact is that his candidacy can make a positive difference of around 10-20 seats to the Congress, mostly in the North. This is almost the size of one regional party.
Modi and Gandhi have few things in common: both are very popular and if heads are counted then both the BJP and the Congress are going to make almost equal counts this elections, both are mostly accepted within their parties but equally disliked by potential allies and that both would find it equally difficult to form the government, if their parties are in a position to form the next government: Modi because of his staunch emphasis on Hindu nationalism and Gandhi because of his longer stint in politics and possibly because of his stated idealism and public postures on many issues.
In this regard let me be very clear that likelihood of Gandhi taking reins from Dr. Manmohan Singh in his second term is very much low though even the BJP top brass could become somewhat nervous if it so happens. I think that in all fairness Gandhi should lead his own term, whenever it is possible. But he is likely to be preferred over P Chidambaram as the Congress candidate for the prized post as the latter has practically no influence in the North while Gandhi is known all over India.
So, what’s the problem with Rahul Gandhi? Nothing from my point of view but all Indians are not equally complex. India has widest distributions possible in the world and not all can understand the complexity of Gandhi’s brain: that like most of the Indian politicians he resembles a Hindu Janus. On surface and this could be true of a majority of Indian public; he appears an impractical idealist who is too proud of his family’s history and considers resolving current problems of India as his personal duty.
He appears to be keeping a view that India is his family property; something that was not even true of Nehru. This is a majority view of non-Congress voters and undecided ones who are a dominant majority in themselves and this is certainly not my view.
Therefore, what should Gandhi do? I think he should seize the opportunity even though the probability of the Congress-led alliance government at Center is lowest in a decade. But he should get rid of a syndrome which makes him think that he should either be the Prime Minister of India or an ‘ordinary’ Member of Parliament.
So, if he fails to form the next government he should become leader of the opposition in the Lower House of the Parliament. He should try to be the leader of the party and definitely not its mentor. He should break the jinx about his family rule and should promote other young leaders to become national leaders to the extent possible in his party.
However, Modi would be well advised to take Gandhi as his main opponent and also to consider him seriously though he himself is hot favorite. Gandhi instead of just opposing Modi and the BJP on inclusiveness should work out a practical plan which may make a larger population of India participant in governance without affecting the edge and relative consciousness, those that are the driving engine in Indian growth story. Gandhi should become more complex to understand that not too many Indians understand complexity of his character.
Therefore, he should prove himself to be a bit opportunist, selfish and a realist whenever such qualities are required. That would help him a lot and would make him a better choice for the post of the Prime Minister of India. On the other extreme he should not have any guilt in continuing his family’s dominance as he is indeed the most popular leader in his party and a better one too. He deserves to become the Prime Minister of India and he would one day become so but probably not in immediate future.